Thursday, February 24, 2011
On Towers and Attics
With the introduction of the cable rails at the tower stair, the Diaz Farm Family Unit is complete. When this project began, the client requested an observation tower. For a number of reasons we began exploring the idea of attaching this tower to a new house that was also part of the master plan. Since my childhood, the idea of a stairway that exits the second story of a home to go to a kind of "rooftop retreat" captured my imagination. The idea that this tower could be a kind of uber-attic to a new home was intriguing. In the midst of reconciling the client's program with zoning, permitting and budget issues we didn't really stop to contemplate the psychological symbolism of a tower or an attic, but the union of a "home" and a "tower" became a powerful metaphor as the project progressed.
In Jungian psychology the attic (being at the top of the house) is characterized as the mind. It is the last thing built and often symbolizes our dreams and aspirations. As the building represents the self, attics in dreams tend to be thought of as ideas. Ideas can be discarded or stored and brought out in the future. As the repository of our thoughts and experience, the attic can be seen as representing the culmination of our life's work. In its most literal interpretation, the attic and the tower seem to represent our "higher" spiritual self and perhaps our desire to connect with the eternal.
Towers smack of ambition and rugged independence. The tower is a very American idea that came to prominence at a time of great optimism about our work ethic and its accompanying industry. In many respects this project personified the struggle that exists in us all between American dreams and American ambition. Ambition is about the high stakes struggle for progress or success. Dreams are about something far less mercenary and more sympathetic with ideals. While ambition and dreams can be at odds, I would like to believe they can also be reconciled and this can actually become the true "project." On some level we all ask ourselves if the ends of an undertaking are justified by the means. It is often only after we have made our peace with the methodology that we can muster the will and good intentions to shoulder the burden required to execute it. This project was an opportunity to contemplate our cultural legacy and the ways it could be reshaped into something more sustainable.
A big “thank you” to Manny and Carol Diaz for willing this building to be. In the final analysis it would have been impossible to break ground on the first Agriboard building in California without a client who was both ambitious enough to overcome the permitting challenges and thoughtful enough to care.
Here is hoping this tower can represent all that is good in our attics and towers!